Whether you’re an active yoga practitioner or a budding enthusiast, you will not miss yoga terminology like Asana.
Asana comes from a Sanskrit word meaning sitting down, sitting posture, or a meditation seat. It was introduced to the West in 1919. This postulates that the concept of Asana, or bodily stretching and yoga postures, is a relatively new phenomenon. However, pre-modern India treats Asana as just one part of the complete system of yoga. And it is in 16th-century Hatha yoga text and tradition that we witness new asanas introduced, as well as a shift from seated positions to complex non-seated asanas. But there’s more to Yoga asana than its colorful yoga history, and we’ll know more about it in this article.
The 8 Limbs Of Ashtanga
Asana is but one of 8 parts of Ashtanga yoga, which is a branch of Hatha yoga. All eight limbs are essential, but Asana has taken front and center in practice because of fitness pursuits. What you see as modern yoga practice is just the 3rd limb of ashtanga called, Asana, meaning postures. Since it is part of a whole, we’ll look into all the limbs to understand it as a whole.
- Yamas – these are moral imperatives or a code of ethics that includes non-violence, truthfulness, and marital fidelity, among others.
- Niyama – these are virtuous practices stating what should be practiced habitually, such as self-discipline, persistence, and introspection, among others.
- Asana – this means a posture that can be held at extended periods in a relaxed state of mind. It originally signified the seated meditation postures, but it has already evolved into more poses, becoming the yoga we know today.
- Pranayama – this is breath control done through inhalation and extended exhalation.
- Pratyahara – this is the mind’s withdrawal from the distractions of the sensory world. This limb usually bridges the shift between the first four limbs that focus on external discipline to the internal aspect of yoga, which is the last 4.
- Dharana – this is the limb of single-minded concentration or focus that is also known as mindfulness. This limb prepares you to get into the deeper states of yoga.
- Dhyana – this limb teaches a natural stream of thought about a subject you are focusing on without biases and distractions related to the subject.
- Samadhi – this is the unity between the practice and the practitioner. In this state, you are one with the subject of meditation.
The Benefits of Asana
Asana is the external aspect of yoga that eventually leads to its internal and meditative aspects. The Ashtanga limbs are essential because it leads to a full transformation—oneness.
Now that we understand the importance of Asana in yoga practice let’s look at some of its benefits.
- It improves posture.
Yoga is an excellent way to correct posture because of how some asanas elongate the spine and stretch the muscles. Yoga poses are designed to create a straight line from your head to your body, improving your overall posture.
- It improves muscle strength.
Yoga uses body weight during exercise, improving your muscle strength in the process. As you gain strength, you can move to more advanced poses and hold them for much longer, so you continue to improve and challenge yourself.
- It improves flexibility.
Do you know we need flexibility in daily life to be more productive? Yoga poses have excellent asanas that require good stretches, increasing your range of motion. This improvement spills over your routine as you feel less tightness and tension as you move around.
There are more benefits to Asana, and some of these are magnified as you go through the different limbs. It’s an exciting aspect of yoga, dynamic, and full of challenges.
The benefits of Asana can be seen because it is the external practice of Ashtanga yoga, but most importantly, it is a limb or a step that eventually leads to the culmination of the practice. Whether you’re a yogi or a beginner, Asana is a fun and vital part of the whole practice that highlights the more dynamic aspect of your journey.
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